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Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO               83
in order to ridicule his methods or expose his probable charlatanry, he became very pleasant. But, underneath his manner 1^ detected all the time a firm caution, as though he could not risk yielding entry into his life to a probing stranger from an alien land.
However, he suggested that he might cast my horoscope if I would eive him my name, my father's name, my birth-date and place of birth. I tried to intimate that it was not for this that I had come to him, and that anyway fortune-telling often produced so many contradictions with each fortune-teller that I preferred to enjoy the bliss of ignorance rather than take the trouble of attempting to reconcile what seemed hopelessly irreconcilable. The old man would not be put off so easily and declared that, whether I wanted one or not, he was now interested enough in me to calculate the map of the heavens at my birth and write out an interpretation that would satisfy his own curiosity and, he hoped, mine. I yielded at last to his importunity, letting him have the data required.
He then asked me to place my hand on a sheet of paper and traced an outline in pencil around the palm. Within this outlined sketch he wrote a few Arabic words. Why he did this I never found out.
I broached the subject of his magic, but he put me off with a non-committal answer. I had heard that he was probably the greatest magician in Cairo, whatever value could be put on such a recommendation.
Skilfully he steered the conversation into another direction, so that I had to spend the time telling him about life in Europe. "Come baok in five days' time," he said when he rose from his chair.
I duly came back and, after the usual preliminary hospitalities were over, he produced a few sheets of foolscap covered with Arabic writing which, he informed me, contained my horoscope in the form of verse. I was thus forced to accept something for which I had never asked, and to offer payment which, after some refusals, he took.
Then came an unexpected turn in his attitude. He offered to show me something of his magic. "Give me your handkerchief," he said, and when I had obeyed him he returned it almost immediately. "Good! Now tear it in half." I did so. He then took one of the torn portions and wrote something on it with a pen, which he inked from a bottle that stood on the